October 23, 2014
Recently the head of the Plan EU office in Brussels, Alexandra Mackaroff, wrote a short piece for Devex on gender equality and put forth some recommendations for the European Union on ways to take action and combat growing inequality in developing nations.
Mackaroff runs through some very brief but impactful suggestions in her piece, such as targeted actions that promote and protect girls’ rights, pushing for improved data collection and monitoring to ensure aid is reaching the intended beneficiaries and having a significant impact, and country ownership at a political and social level to challenge institutionalized discrimination. Together these actions create an enabling environment that generates active and lasting change for the women and girls in that country.
Education is one such right that must be promoted and protected if we are to ever reach gender equity for girls in developing nations. It is one of the primary ways in which girls can gain the appropriate skills needed to not only be an active and engaged citizen, but to also successfully enter the labor market. Educating women has shown that it can also be a key element in breaking the cycle of poverty that may have plagued past family members.
According to Plan EU, 1 in 5 girls around the world is denied access to a quality education. If we have learned anything from the research surrounding women and education everywhere, it is that given the opportunity women are capable of amazing things and can quite literally transform the world around them.
The IDP Foundation has been committed to bringing the low-cost private school sector into the international education conversation since the start of the IDP Rising Schools Program that began in Ghana in 2009. Our program has been highly concentrated on ensuring the education of many rural students who might otherwise not obtain access to quality education; a large number of which are girls. We have remained faithful to ensuring women feel welcomed and supported in our program. To date, 55 women have completed our proprietor training, which accounts for almost 25% of those who have received a certificate of completion. Those 55 women were then given access to loans to better improve the schools they own.
40% of the teachers working in low cost private schools participating in the IDP Rising Schools Program are women, and a majority of them have taken on the passion of teaching without any formal education. Additionally, we have seen significant growth in the number of young girls attending the low-cost private schools that are in the IDPRS program. Currently, school proprietors’ data recordings estimate that around 30,619 Ghanaian girls are being educated through the low-cost private schools involved in our program. With this calculation, this means that girls just edge out boys slightly, with females occupying 51% of the total student population.
As the EU begins to think critically about the ways in which they are going to approach gender inequality in 2015 and beyond, we fully believe that the recommendations made by Mackaroff absolutely need to include the low-cost private school sector, as the number of girls being educated by these institutions will only continue to grow. If they are serious about closing the gender gap, they will have a policy platform dedicated to the recognition and inclusion of these schools in Ghana and in every developing nation.